Question: What Is Copyright For Books?

How to Copyright a Book (in 10 Minutes Or Less)

Copyright is a topic that many authors are curious about, but it’s so complicated that few are willing to dive in. If you’re self-publishing, it’s up to you to educate yourself. Reedsy spoke with practicing attorneys to clear the air.

What is copyright?

When books are published, copyright protects you from others duplicating your work and selling it (for profit or otherwise) without your permission. Copyright protection is the government’s way of saying, “Hey, this book is your original creative work!”

How does protection work?

You, the author, have four exclusive rights, including the right to reproduce or make copies of your work. In the United States, copyright protection on an original work begins the moment it is created (and lasts for 70 years after your death).

What is registered copyright?

If you register your work with the United States Copyright Office, you’ve created a public record of your authorship, and while the chances of someone illegally infringing on your work are extremely slim, there’s still a chance that someone will do so in the future.

How to copyright a book

You can register your book either online or by mail; paper applications take 10-15 months to process, and online registration costs $45. Any work protected by U.S. copyright can be registered, regardless of nationality.

Should you register your book before sending it to a publisher?

Although it is not required to register your book before showing it to editors or agents, the US Copyright Office recommends “timely registration,” which provides you with a number of advantages, including the ability to recover attorney’s fees and statutory damages of up to $150,000.

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Poor man’s copyright

‘Poor man’s copyright’ is when you mail yourself a copy of your manuscript in a sealed envelope; there’s no substitute for the U.S. Copyright Office; it won’t help you in a courtroom, but it will give you a nice big envelope.

What about international copyright?

The United States Copyright Office strongly advises all authors to register, and if you’re self-publishing in the United Kingdom, you must mail a copy of your work to the British Library’s Legal Deposit Office. The Berne Convention abolished domestic registration in most of its 164 signatory nations.

Additional resources

Do I need copyright for my book?

How do you avoid copyright on books?

Copyright infringement can be avoided by carefully creating your own work and understanding the law when copying.

    Where is the copyright in a book?

    Can a publisher steal your book?

    Many authors are concerned that submitting their book to publishers or agents will put them at risk of having their work stolen (gasp!). To begin with, reputable publishers and agents do not steal work.

    Does Amazon own your book?

    Who owns the copyright on a book?

    Can I edit my book after I copyright it?

    When can I use copyrighted material without permission?

    How can I tell if a book is copyrighted?

    Practically, you can confirm this by contacting the publisher listed in the book, if possible. The Library of Congress and the US Copyright Office collaborate to create a searchable database for books, which you can access at for books published after 1975.

    How can I get a copyright for free?

    What is the cost to copyright a book?

    Can someone steal my book idea?

    Do editors steal your book?

    If an agent, editor, or publisher truly wanted to steal your book, they’d have to rewrite it to avoid a plagiarism lawsuit, which takes time, and a lot of it. The reality is that industry professionals don’t have the time to steal your idea.

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    How do I protect my book idea?

    What is the best way to copyright a book?

    1. Go to and click on “Literary Works,” then “Register A Literary Work.”
    2. If you haven’t already done so, create an account with the United States Copyright Office.
    3. Go to “Copyright Registration” on the left side of your screen and click on “Register A New Claim.”

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